WEST Cork will begin their quest for a first-ever Cork ladies’ senior football title with the toughest of assignments against reigning All-Ireland club champions Mourneabbey later this month.
Manager Brian McCarthy is back for another season at the helm and will be joined on the side-line by Anne O’Grady (Bantry Blues), James O’Mahony (O’Donovan Rossa) and Michelle Dullea (Cork LGFA senior strength and conditioning coach) for the 2020 championship.
Drawn in Group A, West Cork travel to defending All-Ireland, Munster and county champions Mourneabbey on July 28th for a rematch of last year’s county final. That encounter will be followed by an equally difficult test against Éire Óg on August 11th.
First and second from Group A progress to the county semi-finals while whoever finishes third will be joined by qualifiers from Group B (Bride Rovers, St Val’s and Kinsale) and Group C (Inch Rovers, Fermoy and Aghada) in the quarter-finals.
Unfortunately for the West Cork division, their entire squad will be stretched as the intermediate and junior club championships are set to run concurrently alongside the senior competition over the next few months. It means West Cork has little wiggle room, if any, when it comes to bringing the squad together for training sessions, let alone organising challenge matches.
‘It is going to be very hard to organise things and get the girls together this year more than any other,’ West Cork boss Brian McCarthy admitted.
‘West Cork needs to play as many challenge games as we can and look to organise those as soon as possible. There is no getting away from the fact that it is going to be extremely tough. We are hoping for the same co-operation that we have enjoyed from the clubs who supply our players once again this year.
‘We accept that we won’t have our full squad out for some of those challenges, but we have to get going as our first senior championship game is away to Mourneabbey. As tough as things will be, it is great to be getting back out on the pitch. Like everything else right now, we are all just going to have to adapt to the situation we find ourselves in.’
McCarthy is right to point to player availability being crucial to West Cork’s chances of reaching the latter stages of this year’s championship.
‘West Cork could be missing players this year and we need every member of our squad,’ McCarthy stated.
‘It is the nature of the beast when you get involved with a division. We have given girls every chance to show what they can do in a West Cork jersey. Everyone in the squad knows what’s needed at senior level at this stage. A lot of people overlook the fact clubs in West Cork may never get the chance to play at senior level. That’s why the West Cork division is so important as it gives girls that opportunity.’
West Cork knew they would be without the services of Cork senior Niamh Cotter – who has transferred to Kilmacud Crokes in Dublin – prior to this season’s championship.
‘We definitely won’t have Niamh this year and we are still in the process of confirming all our other players availability at the minute,’ the West Cork boss said.
‘Niamh will be a massive loss to us, no doubt about it. However, that’s part and parcel of playing ladies football. For example, Mourneabbey will be missing Dublin senior Noelle Healy this year as well. Niamh’s absence gives someone else a chance to step into the midfield role, show what they can do and make that West Cork jersey her own.
‘We will have to adapt. I think that is the keyword this year, adapt. Everyone has to do whatever they can to get teams back out on the field and just get on with it.’
Cork LGFA has produced a blueprint for all ten of its senior, intermediate and junior competitions over the next four months. Knowing the dates of their group and knockout championship encounters means McCarthy and his selectors can plan accordingly for what will be an intense period.
‘I’m sure all the West Cork clubs have given their players individual fitness programmes so we will know where we stand once a couple of challenge games have been completed,’ McCarthy noted.
‘Having those match dates is important and a huge help. We know what we must do. The motivation is to be ready for that first game against Mourneabbey and take things from there after that.’